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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm seriously considering moving to the North West (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming), but I'm having some reservations regarding growing plants/crops up there. From what I can see, they have quite a low hardiness rating. My goal is to eventually be self-reliant for food, so this could be a big issue for me.

So, a question about greenhouses: how much would they raise the temperature (or hardiness rating)? This is for a non-electric greenhouse which is only heated by the sun. Would this raise the minimum temperature sufficiently that I could grow a decent enough variety of plants to sustain myself?

Also, how do trees fare? Obviously there's a lot of pines, but is it possible to grow many hardwood species (especially hardwood trees which bear fruit like olives or nuts)? If not, would they be ok in a (suitably sized) greenhouse?

If I was to say which state I'm leaning towards, it'd probably be Montana. No idea where, though, but possibly in the west or north west of the state. Figured I'd include that just in case someone was going to ask, but ultimately I think I'm looking for more general advice just to see if it's viable or not (and for an explanation on the effect of a non-heated greenhouse).

Thanks :)
 

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Pass the beans, please
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You will most likely need a heat source for your greenhouse but don't panic about it. You can put a freestanding barrel stove in a greenhouse and set the damper low for a long burn and you should have no problem. I am in Eastern Washington and the eco-nazi's on the dark side of the state set the rules even though I am close to the Idaho border.

Plan to heat with wood and you should be fine. Evergreen trees have taken over this area but there are plenty of hardwoods that will do fine if you can keep the deer off of them while they get established. I have already planted maples, walnut, almond trees, all types of fruit trees (behind deer fence) and chestnuts here and they should be giving syrup, fruit, and nuts in two or three years and we bought a year ago.

You can grow plenty of food (behind a deer fence) in the Northwest and plant lots and lots of fruit trees and berries. Those do very well here. The berries are not real high maintenance but the fruit trees take studying and time to do it right. Pay real close attention to soil. We are on a mountain of clay so learn all you can about composting, vermicomposting, and soil amendments. Clay is really tricky but raised beds are always a great option.

You can do your starts in a greenhouse or even in a basement with regular lights in the winter and get a good headstart on the growing season (bad this year). You should also learn about cold-frame gardening and raised beds are good for this too. Keep in mind that you are probably looking at 20 hours plus of extra work a week minimum so it needs to be something you enjoy!

Pay close attention to water rights and make sure your realtor understands those. That is very important and a house or property with water rights can dictate what you can or can't do. There are lots of things that grow very well here in the Northwest and can make you self-sustainable for chickens, rabbits, and larger livestock. Alfalfa is a great crop for feeding your critters, building composts, and fixing nitrogen in your soil. Dry wheat can also be planted and does well if you have the time, tractor, and space.

Heating a greenhouse if you have access to wood is cheap, inexpensive, and very effective. You can even keep a large pot of water on top of the wood stove to provide humidity and just fill it when you change out the wood or check on the stove.

Hope that helps a bit. I need to start researching olive trees more. The Northwest is a great area and I am sure you would like it. If you go Montana or Idaho and get near water the fishing is pretty darned good too!
 

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My olive trees froze out at around zero to -5 F. But most fruit trees should be suitable.

The hardiness maps and the precipitation maps of the Id & Mt area show tremendous variations over small changes in altitude and terrain. Search for some one with local knowledge.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks very much for that cts1630 and Hick Industries.

I hadn't considered heating a greenhouse with a wood stove, but it seems so obvious now! I'm fine with doing 20 hours or more work each week to maintain it - I'd imagine that anywhere that I choose to live I'd still have to put in some effort to grow things to sustain myself.

At least I now know that it's not impossible to grow many plants/trees in the NW, but I think you're right Hick, I might need to ask some of the locals. If there aren't any on here, I'll check out some of the gardening/self sufficiency forums and see if I can find some.

Thanks again :)
 

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Here in the Mission valley I'm just over 3000'. Potatoes can be planted in May but most crops need to be plantedin the first week of June or else you run the risk of the seed rotting in the ground and freeze damage to your plants. If you want corn you'll need a 60 day variety. Beets, peas, potatoes, lettuce and cabbage do really well for me and 4th of July tomatoes do well also. Apple trees do pretty well as do cherry trees. Chicken coops and greenhouses definatly need heat and really the coop should be insulated. I use a heat lamp and a dairy barn type heater for my coop, but my coop is pretty large( 8x10' and tall enough to stand in). Another possibility for heating the greenhouse later in the spring would be a couple of large dietz type lanterns like they use in orchards to keep fruit trees from freezing.
http://www.lehmans.com/store/Lamps_Lights___Lanterns___Dietz___Dietz_Jupiter_Hurricane_Oil_Lantern___jupiter?Args=
The lantern above is listed as being suitable for heating a greenhouse plus it lasts a long time between refills.
Farming in NW Montana is doable ,you just have to plan on a short growing season and plant accordingly.
 

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There's a book called "Winter Harvest Handbook" that is actually one of the best book I have. The author raises most of his crops in unheated greenhouses (in zone 5 Maine). He claims that with floating row covers inside the greenhouse that he can grow as if in zone 8, so an unheated greenhouse (and row covers) could bump your overall hardiness zone up by 3 points. He also talks about not allowing some of his greenhouses to drop below around 38 degrees where he grows other kinds of crops during winter.

Just get this book!!
Amazon.com: The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses (9781603580816): Eliot Coleman: Books
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks very much for that larryp and XS29L! :)

I'm feeling a little more confident that I could make it work in the NW. I'll definitely check out that book - I think I'm going to need all the information I can get.
 

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Pass the beans, please
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There's a book called "Winter Harvest Handbook" that is actually one of the best book I have. The author raises most of his crops in unheated greenhouses (in zone 5 Maine). He claims that with floating row covers inside the greenhouse that he can grow as if in zone 8, so an unheated greenhouse (and row covers) could bump your overall hardiness zone up by 3 points. He also talks about not allowing some of his greenhouses to drop below around 38 degrees where he grows other kinds of crops during winter.

Just get this book!!
Amazon.com: The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses (9781603580816): Eliot Coleman: Books
Just ordered and thanks.
 

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There are a number of ranges of climate in the region. Where I live in Wyoming we have frosts into June and again around the end of August. Other areas have milder, longer growing seasons.

I have a greenhouse that I don't heat. Using cold frames in the greenhouse will lengthen the season as well. I tend to keep it well watered and the soil absorbs a lot of heat in the day and radiates it back out at night. Containers of water around tomato plants and the such add some frost protection as well. We are at 6500 feet and I have successfully grown tomatoes out side of the green house by making a U shape of water filled barrels open to the south. The heat radiates out of the barrels at night and protect from mild frost. A tarp over the top at night adds another layer when colder. We raised tomatoes in Laramie, WY (over 7000 ft.) by planting on the south side of a cinder block wall. The use of thermal mass can compensate for cold. I've a friend down the road that has a couple of acres covered in greenhouses. He raises organic vegetables and sells around the region to restaurants and grocers.

There are a lot of native berries and poms in the area: choke cherries, elder berry, service berry, Oregon grapes, currants, rose hips, etc... that are hardy enough. Raspberries and strawberries thrive as well. Apple trees, wild plums, and some other cherry trees do well here. There is a plethora of native plant growth that is edible beyond the above.

If a person is willing to adapt and work with the environment and not fight to make things work that fit another environment, he or she can do well.
 
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